Each year, AAF Columbus names a Rising Star — a young professional who is really knocking it out of the park in the industry and in our community. At this event, we’ll be interviewing the 2020 Rising Star, Nicole Erdeljac, Corporate Communications Manager at Fahlgren Mortine, about her career and insights looking to 2021.
As a young professional, Nicole is a natural leader in her various endeavors and someone that others look up to. After spending time in foundational positions with Franklin Park Conservatory and Capital University, she found her way to Fahlgren Mortine – hoping to find a way to support the agenda-setting clients and companies in our community and beyond. She quickly made herself indispensable to the executive team and is an internal leader; a supportive peer; a cultural cornerstone for the agency; a mentor; and a role model for younger talent throughout the community. Her energy extends far beyond our walls as she often attends Columbus Metropolitan Club and Columbus Council on World Affairs events to learn more about our community and our world.
She has served as a longtime volunteer with Pi Beta Phi, Capital University’s MBA Ambassador Council, and with American Advertising Federation/ADDY Awards planning committee, along with many other organizations and roles.
With a background in event planning, she has become an integral part of Fahlgren’s employee engagement process, spearheading most of their internal events and serving as an ambassador for the agency when hosting or attending external events. From using her creativity to come up with new event ideas to breathing virtual life into older favorites, she’s not afraid of a challenge and won’t stop until the job is done.
She had a fundamental role in inventing and implementing Fahlgren’s new Home Huddle program that launched at the beginning of the work-from-home season in 2020. When COVID-19 forced them to suddenly work from home, it stifled Fahlgren Mortine associates’ ability to connect with their colleagues in casual ways outside of meetings, similar to lunchroom chats or hallway conversations, and she immediately created a program to fill this gap. After associates indicated their interests and topics they’d like to discuss with coworkers, small group virtual huddles were formed for them to bond over their common interest, showcasing Nicole’s desire to connect people with others when they need it most.
She once was told, during her time at Capital University that there was “no way she would get donors out on the dance floor at a black-tie gala.” In the middle of winter, under a tent on Capital University’s Convergent Media Center’s lawn, alumni and donors of all ages were showing off their best dance moves. This is a true testament to Nicole’s ability to connect other people, help them feel comfortable, and set the mood for an event or gathering.
CEO Neil Mortine consistently leans on Nicole and trusts her as the voice of Fahlgren’s associates when designing large, all-associate events or writing various communications for the team. She has played an important role in supporting Fahlgren Mortine’s racial equity initiatives and helped determine the right way for us to participate in social justice conversations as our social media manager.
And, when Fahlgren launched an evolved brand this summer, she was at the helm of sharing the launch on our various channels and helping audiences feel involved every step of the way. Instead of following in the footsteps of those before her, she took this opportunity to lead the charge in defining new social media guidelines, content pillars, channel voices, and tone. Her efforts on the new business team have solidified her ability to cultivate relationships with marketers at the agency, in Central Ohio and with prospective clients across the country – helping the agency grow its portfolio and improving its win rate to nearly 60% (twice the industry average).
Not only has Nicole had an incredible impact at Fahlgren, she has also been incredibly involved in the community. As a native of Columbus, she has spent her life striving to make an impact on the community around her. She consistently takes her involvement in an organization beyond “participation.” Her normal is to lead, and she easily finds ways to take on an initiative, join a committee, or engage herself further in some way. She always aims to leave an organization better than she finds it.
When she returned from her undergraduate studies at Bowling Green State University, she immersed herself in the world of events through a wedding planning internship followed by time on the events staff at Franklin Park Conservatory. Although she’s professionally moved away from the wedding industry, this love for events and fostering connection still lingers today, through wedding logistic coordination for friends and managing a small calligraphy and hand-lettering business in her spare time.
During her next role as the Director of Advancement at Capital University, she connected students, faculty, donors, and alumni with senior-level leadership at the university while supporting the president and three vice presidents. As mentioned, she doesn’t stop at what’s in her job description or what’s asked of her. While working full-time, she completed Capital’s MBA program, obtaining her MBA in two years. Meanwhile, she immersed herself even further as the Chair of the MBA Ambassador Council and still serves as an advisor to the group, emceeing community events and interviews with industry leaders, founders, and CEOs. This involvement allowed her to plan and execute events for current students and alumni to engage with one another and get involved with volunteer opportunities throughout Columbus.
At the beginning of her time at Fahlgren Mortine, she immediately found her way to the Pelotonia team and volunteered to serve as a co-captain before she had even ridden in the annual bike ride. She then raised the bar by volunteering to be the team captain for her second year on the team, leading efforts for the group that raises thousands of dollars for cancer research annually and has contributed more than $160,000 in total.
When it was casually mentioned to her that AAF was looking for additional volunteer help on their ADDYs planning committee, she couldn’t have raised her hand faster as she was eager to dive deeper into the advertising industry and leverage her love and savvy for events in the process. Not only did she volunteer with the event itself, but she asked questions, attended meetings without being asked, pushed the team to be better, and helped create one of the most successful (and logistically smooth) shows AAF Columbus has ever had.
Outside of her professional involvement, it’s important to her to give back to an organization that had a major impact on who she is today – Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for women. She began advising the Pi Phi chapter at Denison University in 2016 and has increased her commitment by stepping up as a chair of the advisory committee and President of the Columbus Alumnae club. Volunteering her time to advise the collegiate women in leadership roles within the chapter at Denison enhances their impact as leaders in the community and makes Granville and Central Ohio a better place.
Nicole has a unique knack for finding opportunities that foster connection in her personal life, as well. Whether it’s starting an online book club with strangers that is now three years old and 20 members strong; guest starring on a podcast series about attachment and connection; or finding her way on stage at the Funny Bone with the hosts of a top comedy podcast on dating and relationships, Nicole is not known for sitting quietly in the back of the room, and we’re all better for it.
Please join us in congratulating Nicole as our 2020 Rising Star!